Julia Donaldson, James Robertson (trans) - The Gruffalo in Scots (4 stars)

James Robertson's translation breathes fresh life into Julia Donaldson's story

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Julia Donaldson, James Robertson (trans) - The Gruffalo in Scots

Can there be a children’s bookshelf in the land that doesn’t hold a copy of The Gruffalo? Julia Donaldson’s picture book has been a perennial hit with pre-schoolers since it was first published in 1999, with new toddlers discovering it all the time.

But if, like me, you’ve lost count of the number of times you’ve read it out loud, here’s something to shake things up a little. The winning combination of Donaldson’s plot and Axel Scheffler’s colourful illustrations have been retained, but The Gruffalo in Scots is a whole new bedtime proposition.

Thanks to James Robertson’s translation, no longer does the mouse take a walk in the deep dark woods – now he’s off to take a ‘dauner through the deep, mirk widd’. The fox he encounters along the way is now a ‘tod’, the owl a ‘hoolet’ and the snake a, erm, snake (clearly an inventive Scots speaker needs to come up with a new translation for that one ).

It’s fascinating and educational to see this familiar text written in such an unfamiliar way, and a great reminder of our cultural heritage for those reading it in Scotland. Robertson’s words also lead to a few laughs, with the much repeated, ‘A Gruffalo, why didn’t you know?’ line now reading as ‘Whit, dae ye no ken?’

The only potential drawback here, is it takes a certain degree of confidence – or even performance style – to read this out loud, especially if you don’t have a Scottish accent. But then in some houses, that will just add to the fun.

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1. Ray Gunn28 Aug 2012, 1:38pm Report

Why would Scots need to invent a new word for snake?

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